Aug 13

A new .NET User Group is born. Location: Bangkok

This year, I have moved to Thailand to help Jetabroad set up a development office in Bangkok by hiring great people and setting up good development processes.

Where do you find developers in a new city where you don’t have any professional network? Well I thought I would start with connecting with the local .NET community.

Unfortunately, googling, I couldn’t find any .NET user group in Bangkok I could participate to so we have decided to start a new .NET user group 🙂

The first session will be on the 21st of August where I will be presenting the javascript library Knockout.js.

Check it out: http://www.meetup.com/Bangkok-NET-Users-Group/

Mar 13

How I hired a great web developer on oDesk for $12/hr

I am working on the weekly planner called Week Plan and I decided I needed someone to help me develop it while I focus on the other tasks of the business.

Many people resist the idea of outsourcing so I thought I would show how I went through the process myself and found a great web developer.

1. Post the job on oDesk

Title: The title should be as descriptive as possible to attract the right people.
Description: The job description should contain the technology required, and what the developer will be working on.

I also inserted a “spam trap”: I ask inside the job description the applicants to start their job application with the word “WEEKPLAN”. Many people apply without really looking at the job description so when you receive 100+ job applications, it is a great way to filter out the spammers.

Budget: I prefer to pay freelancers hourly rather than on a project basis but financially it makes more sense to pay per project because freelancers always underestimate the size of a project. Being a freelancer, I prefer to be paid based on the time I work rather than forcing me to estimate the size of a project. I found that the right range is around $12 to $17/hour. Ask for less and you increase your risks in getting someone really bad, asking for more wouldn’t increase your chances of finding someone good of much.

Ratings: I request the developers to have at least 4.5 stars ratings.


2. Hire two or three great candidates for a trial

So now you are receiving applications for your job. First you can filter out all the people who fell into your spam trap. That lives you with around 30 applications. Off these applications, I focus my attention on Eastern Europeans. In my experience, Eastern Europeans have the right mix: low cost of living, high level of education, high level of integrity. The signal to noise ratio is usually very good and I like their communication style, direct borderline rude Smile I have hired developers from India in the past but it is harder to find the good ones among a lot of low quality applications.

Once I picked three candidates, I tell them they are entering a (EDIT: paid) trial period where I need them to develop a small project.

3. The mini project

I always have a long list of app ideas I would like to implement when I temporarily lose motivation on my main project.

I try to find ideas related to my main project so that the effort put in developing the mini-app will be used to enhance the main project. In my example, I will use these mini apps to raise the profile of the main project.

What I ask one of them is simple: a behaviour todo list. List the things you want to be doing in your behaviour and tick the ones you are currently doing. As you tick more and more items, you go up in level (karate belts) until you reach the black belt Smile

I prepared a mockup in PowerPoint to describe the app to the developer:


It took me maybe 15 min to create the mockup.

Making mockups in PowerPoint is underrated by the way: it doesn’t take much time to have a fairly complete UI, you can have some advanced stuff like clickable elements, and animations and everyone has PowerPoint.

4. The result

The developer finished the app in 6 hours. That’s $72. It took me another 4 hours to improve the design a bit and package the files into a Google Play app.

This is the end result:


And the listing in Google Play:


Nothing impressive but for $72 I could see how the developer worked, if he asked questions to better understand what I want, and how good he is technically. Now I can use the app as a way to show the company’s commitment to personal productivity.

Out of the three developers I trialled, two passed the app test. I ended up hiring someone from Ukraine because he could work full time on weekplan but both were really good.

If you are looking for a javascript / asp.net developer, I can send you the contact details of the other candidate who faired well but didn’t get selected because he could not work full time.

Conclusion: Outsource.

Seriously, if you are an online entrepreneur, do yourself a favour and start outsourcing. It is low risk and has great returns.

I usually advice people to start small when it comes to learning how to outsource.

Disclaimer: one of my product is an online outsourcing markeplace, and it is in my interest to convince you that outsourcing is good for you Smile. But it also means I may have some experience with outsourcing that is worth sharing.

Seriously give outsourcing a try: odesk elance freelancer taskarmy

Jun 12

Tips to stay in the zone as a developer

Keep a simple todo-list

This is a sample of my todo list:

Write unit tests for new presenters
x Test each user story manually under IE7
x Fix javascript issue
x Fix AUDIO VIDEO styles

The todo list helps you with several things.

First, it helps you fulfil all your promises and commitments by not forgetting them.

Second, it frees your mind and you start thinking less of work when you are at home. Your mind will start trusting your todo list and will stop reminding you of doing certain things when you are in your shower or about to sleep.

Third, it helps you get back in the flow. Let’s say that you are in the middle of writing a method and someone comes to ask you something. If the interaction with that person lasts more than a minute, you are likely to lose your train of thoughts. The todo list will remind you what item you were working on so that you can get back to it straight away but it will also put you in the same mindset as to when you wrote the todo list, helping with context switching.

Avoid interruptions

Communication mediums

Avoiding interruptions is obvious advice but it is hard to deal with in an open space. We are all responsible to help each other stay in the flow by deciding whether we need the answer right now or if the answer can be asynchronous (in which case we should send an email or a chat message). Using Skype or emails also reduces the environment noise.


Another way to get interrupted is by constantly checking emails. The action of checking your emails is not what cause the interruption but it happens when you receive an email you decide to reply right now.

If you find yourself easily distracted. Set yourself a rule to check your emails once per hour.

Background noise

I realized recently that I get distracted by surrounding activity: the printer, the discussions in the next aisle, phones ringing. To help me reduce these distractions, I started listening to music and it has helped tremendously.

It makes my days more enjoyable.

I don’t get distracted as much.

People think twice before interrupting me instead of sending me an email.

Ask when you are stuck

I spoke several times of avoiding interruptions and using emails rather than directly speaking to someone but I am still a strong believer that you should still ask for advice if you get stuck. Don’t hesitate to ask someone (via email, chat, directly as you see fit) if you can’t solve your issue. You could get stuck for 3 hours when someone could solve your issue in 5 minutes just by having a fresh perspective on your issue.

Make pauses

Making a few breaks in your day allows your mind to solve your issues in the background. Going to get a cup of tea or to the toilet could be enough to get unstuck.

I know some people use the Pomodoro technique. Work 25 minutes and rest 5 minutes. Repeat.

Pomodoro doesn’t work for me but a lot of people embraced it and love it.

Do you guys have any tips on increasing productivity and reducing stress?

Jun 12

How DragonBox an educational app beat Angry Birds in the AppStore

I have interviewed the founder of the companyWe Want To Know that is behind the app DragonBox.

DragonBox teaches kids algebra in a innovative and fun way and has reached the #1 spot in the Games category of the AppStore in Norway.

Click here to check out the app on the iTunes store. (here for the Android version)

In the interview, I was interested to hear about the specifics of the execution of the idea that helped them get so much traction.

The app is innovative and well polished but many of us have great products and yet fail to get any traction. Through my questions, I have tried my best to extract what they did that other entrepreneurs can reproduce in their own ventures.

Building a great team

I know that you are not a developer yourself and that you are not funded and yet you have managed to gather a team of talented experts to help you develop DragonBox.

Can you tell us a bit about the composition of your team (skills and geographical location) and how you found them?

My vision on this is: get the best experts that share the same vision as me, in this case people who love mathematics, or share the vision to revolutionize education thru games.

  • Patrick Marchal, former game director of a big studio Montecristo (game XL cities), based in Paris. Found him on the net through an article he wrote about serious games.
  • Jerome Lacoste, a friend, expert in building automation, lean process, polyvalent, extremely user centered, based in Oslo.
  • Regis Faller, one of the best art directors in France, extremely creative, and one of the few artists who loves mathematics. I met him while working in the publishing industry, and I love his way of thinking, he’s extremely visual, and that’s a key element in how we want to present mathematics in our games. He’s super experienced and talented to communicate with children, based in Paris.
  • Rolf Assev, former top executive from Opera Software, visionary as he sees the power of game based learning, very experimented with PR, marketing and strategy.
  • Chloe Faller, 14 years old, she drew the pokemon figures in the game, super talented, and she knows what children are interested in. Most part of the adults would have never thought the drawings would work for almost all ages. Paris.
    Luis Sanches, soundtrack, super talented, and professional, Brighton (UK), was not given so much time to make the music, so it’s pretty impressive what he achieved. I heard the music a million times and it is still ok : )
In what terms did they agree to work with you? What helped you convince them?

Good question. I guess I can be convincing 🙂 but the vision behind the company is really strong and our team and product show we can deliver what we promise. Some are shareholders because they want to stay in the long term, others got a fixed fee and they will get a percentage of sales. But basically, if people I meet share the same vision, the biggest part of the job is done because we both want to make it happen.

Build a great product

Getting an idea implemented the way you want by someone else is extremely difficult, as anyone who has tried outsourcing development can attest. Although having a team is very different from outsourcing, they both share the process of explaining one’s vision to someone else.


How did you decide what features to include and what to remove before the launch?

I basically took the decisions at the last moment. As you can imagine there are many decisions or choices to make.

Which target group, what kind of games…. it was many choices but the vision helped me find one path that turned out to be correct.

I do these games for my children, in order them to learn difficult stuff rapidly.

So the mission and vision helped me massively. Simple game, simple rules, not too much, more importantly get the flow when you play. Make it work with kids as young as possible.

How did you clarify the requirements inside your team to make sure ideas were understood?

The main problem is not to make ideas understood but rather have ideas accepted. Lots of discussion to come to the features I wanted, and very often nothing was made. Strong personalities in the team. So it’s more kind of a consensus. Same language and same goal make things pretty clear… every team member thinks and lives the product. Not that many explanations needed.

I remember you mentioned you were doing some user testing, what useful feedback came from doing this kind of testing? Where did you find the testers?

The main blocker is to get access to testers. You have to be completely crazy and passionate to be able to test the game with anybody at anytime. We are that kind of guys… test, observe, and accept that things don’t work and that you have to change it. Openness is KEY. Accept that you have to change things to make it work. Because my goal is to make it work with my own children. It is pure research actually.

Dominating the AppStore

Your app reached the #1 spot on the AppStore. Congratulations, this is a great achievement. Let’s dig into how you launched your product.

Was is a soft launch (organically from your social network), or was it a Hollywood launch (create as much buzz as possible)?

We invited journalists to come to my school to present the product. In parallel we did a lot of things to work on our own social networks. But sincerely, all that has no meaning if your product is shit…

We got PR and social network response because it is more than a game. Education and mathematics is a hot thing that is in great need for innovation. So there is a trend there and a HUGE need and market. Competitors are welcome : ) it is a new industry we are starting..

What worked the best in generating publicity? PR, word of mouth, your personal network, etc…

PR was key, for example in the US where we got a great article from Wired. Obviously the journalist saw a great story in the product.

You have been interviewed by very popular blogs and newspapers, how did you approach them to get covered?

Rolf is a very experienced PR guy, he is doing everything to set up meetings, pitch the journalists or get people to pitch journalists. I come afterwards to sell the vision. But again, if the product and vision are crap, forget about taking contact with journalists. That said, I spent 4 hours with a journalist in Sweden and she didn’t write a word about our vision and the fact that it is possible to revolutionize education… so PR work is very difficult and unpredictable. Especially if you are small. I would have never done that without Rolf… we would have gone another way.

Can you think of specific tactics you have used that helped generated more buzz? (in-app share feature, use of twitter or facebook, etc…)

We are zeroes when it comes to features like in-app recommendations… we are losing lots of momentum and sales because of that.. We missed something there actually.

But at the same time, it is difficult to implement everything and test it and have minimal bugs. And I had no experience. We decided to launch the product even if all these features were not in, to get feedback from the market. It is important to get feedback from the market as soon as possible to adjust things if necessary.

How many journalists have you met in total so far?

I met or talked to 7 journalists so far and half didn’t publish a thing about us.

Anything you wish you had done better in regard to PR?

Yep, it is important to be well prepared and anchor our speech locally. In Norway that is easy, but abroad, quite complicated. For example the optimal way is to get schools or teachers in each country that journalists can contact. All messages must be as much as possible localized. Especially in the education sector. We have to present our game as innovation and not just a product we push. I should have been better prepared at one of the interview… but we learnt from that.

Here is the Hacker News thread related to the Wired article.

I hope you enjoyed this interview, don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comments and I will pass them on to Jean-Baptiste.

May 12

How to receive incoming emails in your Asp.net MVC app

now sends an email asking its users how their day went. They can reply to the email directly and their answer is directly added to their journal.

This is how I have implemented this feature using SendGrid and Asp.net MVC3.

1. Set up your DNS

SendGrid needs you to set up a dedicated domain name that points to their email servers. For example, for WEEK PLAN, I use hello.weekplan.net and the emails I send the reply-able emails from uses this convention:

If a user replies to one of these emails, SendGrid would be processing it.

MX record

2. Set up incoming emails in SendGrid

Each time SendGrid receives an email, they will parse it and post it to a URL you give them (POST request). Simply go to the Developers section, and click on the “Parse Incoming Emails” link:

SendGrid settings page

3. Set up a new route in MVC

WEEK PLAN Now we need to make that URL work. I simply need to add the following in my Global.asax.cs:

Adding a new route

4. Code the action

This is the code of the receiving action:

A few comments on this code:

1. The ValidateInput(false) attribute prevents MVC to consider the incoming data as not safe.

2. I have created a class IncomingEmail to take advantage of the default binder in MVC. I simply name the properties the same way SendGrid names the different parameters.

3. I wasn’t sure what type should the envelope parameter be so I decided to use a dynamic object  for that (and I needed to deserialize the envelope parameter into the dynamic object). Probably not the best option, I am happy to receive suggestions on what type should envelope be.

That’s it, the rest of the action is simply parsing the email address (post+asd87d+sadj23@hello.weekplan.net) for example to know what to do.

I Hope WEEK PLAN users will find this useful.

Apr 12

Allowing your users to unsubscribe from your email notifications in MVC3 and Entity Framework

This is a step by step list of all the steps I took to be able to add a “Unsubscribe” link in the signature of the emails Week Plan sends to the users.

Of course, users must be unsubscribed even when they are not logged in.

This is how I went about it (took me 30mins).

1. Modify the models

First I have added a boolean “BlockedEmails” and a Guid “Guid” property in the User table.

Because I use Code First Entity Framework and Automatic Migrations, I don’t have to take any additional step to make sure the database will be upgraded as well.

2. Autopopulating the value of the Guid

In the mapping class of the User model, I simply need to add the following line:

this.Property(o => o.Guid).HasDatabaseGeneratedOption(DatabaseGeneratedOption.Identity);

How simple!

Now, I want to add an Unsubscribe link in the emails being sent. The link would follow this format: http://weekplan.net/Account/Unsubscribed/GUID_OF_USER

3. Adding the Action in the Account controller

This is just two lines of code:

As you can guess, the UnsubscribeFromEmails search for a user with the same Guid as the id parameter and sets BlockedEmails to true.

The rest is basic Asp.net MVC development:

  • I added a Unsubscribed view in the Views/Account folder.

  • I added the Unsubscribe link inside the email.

  • I don’t send emails to users who have their BlockedEmails set to true.

Thank you for reading.

Apr 12

Enabling automatic migrations with Entity Framework 4.3 on an existing database

Now that my online weekly planner WeekPlan has been migrated from Linq2Sql to Entity Framework, I can take advantage of automatic migrations.

This is actually very simple to put in place and will save you (and me) many headaches in the future.

First, execute these two commands in your Package Manager Console:

Enable-Migrations -EnableAutomaticMigrations
Add-Migration InitialMigration -IgnoreChanges

The first one will create a Migrations folder with a Configuration class (that enables the Automatic Migrations).

The second command creates an empty migration so that the future migrations will start from the current state of your database.

Additionally, I needed to add the following line in OnModelCreating method of my DbContext class:

Database.SetInitializer(new MigrateDatabaseToLatestVersion<WeekPlanDataContext, Configuration>());

That’s it! Now, If I add a new column in a model, it will be automatically added to the database schema. Even better than migrations in rails

Apr 12

Sending emails in Asp.net MVC like in Ruby on Rails

Recently I found  a nuget package that allows me to use MVC Views and Layouts to define how my emails should look like, in a similar way as how mailer works in Ruby on Rails.

This article will show you how I integrated it into my online weekly planner WeekPlan.

1. Set up of the package (5 mins)

The package documentation can be found in the NuGet gallery and ongithub.

I first run the following two commands in my package manager console:

The second command generates the files I will need to customize MvcMailer behaviour and the view files for each email.

MVCMailer generated views

MVCMailer generated files

Finally, we need to set up our Web.Config:

Because I need a different configuration on production, I used the Configuration Transforms technique:

2. Setting up a new email to send (10 min)

Let’s check out how to write the method that will build the Invitation email:

Pretty straightforward. We build a standard MailMessage and call the PopulateBody method to call MVCMailer magic.

This is how my view file looks like:

The neat thing about MVCMailer is that it allows to set the HTML view and the Text view too (this is why I used the –WithText parameter when calling the scaffolder:

3. Send an email

In my controller, I need to call the Invitation method and use the extension method Send (given by MVCMailer) to send the email:

I have a base Controller class where I added the Mailer property:

If I test my code, I get a new file in my drop folder:


And if I open it in Outlook, I get the result I expected:


Et voilà!

Nice isn’t it?

(Get the full gist here)

Jan 12

Tasks a virtual assistant can do for an online entrepreneur

Virtual assistants are all the rage these days. Since Tim Ferriss democratized the concept with his book “Four Hour Work Week”, virtual assistants have become increasingly popular.

And yet, many founders still don’t outsource.

The reason why people don’t outsource after the fear for poor quality is that they don’t know what to outsource.

Yesterday I had another discussion with a founder I respect who wasn’t using virtual assistants because he didn’t know what they could do for him.


This article is a braindump of all the ways a virtual assistant can be useful to an online entrepreneur.

Online marketing

This is an area where people think virtual assistants are used to spam by commenting on forums and creating forum profiles. Here is a list of tasks they can do for you without being spammy or without using black hat techniques.

Find the contact details of bloggers in your niche: You can then contact them to ask them to review your product or to start building a relationship with them.

Set up or optimize your Google Adwords campaigns: What I usually do is create the campaign with the first ads and keywords as a guide and ask my virtual assistant to create more variations based on them. Her goal is to beat my original ads.

Set up or optimize your Facebook Ads: Similar process for Facebook Ads. This is for example what my virtual assistant created yesterday:

Facebook Ads for an upcoming webinar

Note: although I will refer to the girl working with me as my virtual assistant to stay in the scope of this article, she is so helpful that I usually call her my co-founder from the Philippines 🙂

Regularly market your services in Craigslist: If you are selling services in order to bootstrap your online business, you can ask your virtual assistant to promote your services on popular websites like Craigslist.

Directory submission: Although the SEO value of directories has diminished in the recent updates, it is still valuable to submit your business to local directories and niche directories simply because real people might browse these directories.

Create a squidoo lens: Squidoo lenses are used to boost your SEO. Ask your virtual assistant to create a few useful lenses around your niche.

Submit press releases: Writing a press release is only one side of the equation, the real time consuming part is to submit your press release to the press release websites. Your virtual assistant can create the accounts for you, store the credentials in a shared document and submit the press release for you.

Finding leads

Your virtual assistant can help you monitor the internet looking for people who needs you.

Google Alerts on steroids: Google Alerts is a god send when it comes to passively receiving opportunities in your mailbox. You can receive notifications when someone is has the problem you are solving.

But there is also a lot of noise in the results that Google Alerts sends, and more often than not you stop looking at them after a while.

If it is your case, ask your virtual assistant to use Google Alerts to monitor the results and brief you when she finds something of interest.

Monitoring Twitter, Linkedin groups and other forums: Similar to Google Alerts, except that the virtual assistant can also notify you if there is an opportunity for you to provide value in a discussion instead of just promote yourself. Being helpful is the new marketing.

Filter freelance jobs for you: If you are a freelancer, finding jobs online can be time consuming. Virtual Rockstars is a tool that aggregates jobs for you but it is still time consuming to filter, and contact the job owners. Get the virtual assistant manage this.


Organize interviews for your blog: On a recent interview on Mixergy with the founder of AllFacebook, you can learn that interviewing famous people is a great way to bootstrap your initial blog traffic. Your virtual assistant can find the contact details and contact the people for you and if you only do email interviews, she can even manage the whole process by herself!

Summarize great Quora questions to turn them into blog posts:your virtual assistant can write but may not have enough knowledge in your niche to write good articles. Point her to great Quora questions and ask her to synthesize the answers into a blog post.

Find blog posts topics: Your virtual assistant can search the web for popular topics in our niche. Having a clear list of topics to write about will make you a more prolific blogger instantly.

Comment management: If your blog is big enough you may start getting headaches with all the spam comments you get. Get your virtual assistant to delete them.

Article submission and promotion: Each time you post a blog post, your virtual assistant can submit it to social media websites like Digg, Reddit, BizSugar, Twitter, etc… She can add value by adding a comment next to the link instead of just posting the link like automated feed publishers would do.

Transcription of your podcast or video: If you run a podcast, get your virtual assistant to transcribe it into text. You can reuse this text in a blog post related to the podcast.

Proofread your blog post: If you want to offer an article to an important blogger, you may want someone to review your article before you send it.

Recruit affiliates: If you have an affiliate program, you need to promote it. One way is to submit it to big affiliate programs directories.

Social media

Twitter and Facebook management: Give your virtual assistant a list of RSS feeds to subscribe to (or a opml file) and she can curate and tweet about important articles for you.

Posted by my virtual assistant

Create a Facebook page: You can have a Facebook page that gives away an eBook only if the visitor likes the page. Get your virtual assistant to create all that for you.

Human resources

Hire a freelancer for you: I have used virtual assistants in the past to help me find more specialized freelancers. It costed me $20 to get two assistants find the developer who helped me with developing TaskArmy. Anton was great.

Pay other freelancers: If you deal with freelancers often, paying them in time is important but easy to forget when you have other priorities. Your virtual assistant can help you with that.

Manage other freelancers: When your virtual assistant does not have the technical skills to accomplish a specific task, you can ask them to take care of the project and outsource it themselves. For example, recently my co-founder had recorded a video and we needed someone to edit it, add our logo, add a background music and cut down the scenes to the essential. My virtual assistant took care of finding the right person and managing the whole project.

Train other freelancers using screencasts: If you start expanding beyond one virtual assistant, you can ask your first virtual assistant to record videos to train your future additional virtual assistants.

Customer service

Answering support requests: Most support requests can be answered by your virtual assistant (and you can ask your virtual assistant to update your FAQ as she get new requests).

Live chat: When you are not online, your virtual assistant can take on the job of answering live chat requests on your website.

Twitter: If people are asking questions in Twitter your virtual assistant can make sure they are answered in a timely manner. If someone says something nice about you, your virtual assistant can monitor it and retweet it with the Twitter account of your business.

Note: of course you can do that yourself, it looks trivial enough, like most tasks listed here. But the sum of all the small tasks really adds up and being able to delegate them takes a big weight off you. You’ll see, it feels good.

General business assistance

Web research: You can ask your virtual assistant to list all the most popular CSS galleries for example (then you can ask them to submit your website to them).

Data entry: You could ask your virtual assistant to find a more complete description and picture for each product in your ecommerce store.

Document your business: Your virtual assistant can start drafting all the procedures you have in your business to give you a head start. You can simply edit and add details to them.

Regular metrics reports: I ask(ed) my virtual assistant to prepare a weekly report that aggregates the metrics from different services (Google Analytics, MailChimp, my web app dashboard, etc…). Thanks to that, I get a feel of where the business is going. Without a virtual assistant to do that task, I would only do it once in a while, when I remember to do it.

eBook creation: Your assistant can put your best material together and find a designer to make the cover. Sell your eBook or use it as an incentive for people to subscribe to your newsletter (like I have done here).

Website management

Manage your A/B tests: You are running A/B tests on your website right? Good 🙂 Then your virtual assistant can take care of that side of the business.

Keyword research: Using tools like Market Samurai, your assistant can look for keywords you should target on your website.

Monitor and identify SEO opportunities: Using Google Analytics and Google Keywords, your assistant can highlight keywords that are driving traffic to your website. You should focus more on these keywords to increase your organic traffic.

Set up your WordPress website (or coming soon landing page): If you are working on a product that is not yet ready, ask your virtual assistant to put a coming soon page using the free LaunchEffect theme. She can of course help you set up the sales website for your business too and help you find the right theme.

Set up auto-responder: You are building a mailing list on your website, aren’t you? Nurture your mailing list by getting your virtual assistant to set up an auto-responder by using content you give her, or that she writes herself or that she synthesizes from other sources.

Outsourcing is really a mindset (or learned skill) and it becomes a second nature to identify what can be outsourced and not. Your business is unique and you will come up with unique ways of leverage your virtual assistant talents.

Unique tasks my virtual assistant helped me with:

  • Pick better pictures for the popular TaskArmy services.
  • Remove any dodgy looking services
  • Submit our affiliate program to affiliate program directories.
  • Write more blog posts

What about you? what did you delegate to your virtual assistant?

Please share in the comments.

Announcement: get a top notch virtual assistant now

This week, I am launching TASK ANGELS, a virtual assistance service where I hand-picked the best virtual assistants from my outsourcing marketplace TaskArmy.

If you are looking to use the service of a virtual assistant, check out the TASK ANGELS.


Jan 12

The 7 deadly sins of outsourcing


Outsourcing is getting more and more popular and has evolved a lot but people keep associating it with poor quality or frustrating calls with a customer support guy with a thick accent from halfway around the world.

Outsourcing is a skill that can be learned. Below are the deadly outsourcing sins that business owners commit when trying to outsource. Hopefully it will help you realize you are making some of these mistakes too and as they say, awareness is a step forward in the learning process…

1. Extravagance

extraAdding more cheap resources to a problem most likely won’t shorten the delivery of the solution, especially in the software development world. Replace poor performers with great performers, but do not simply keep adding more otherwise your management overhead will grow exponentially.

2. Gluttony

gluttOutsourcing can be over-done. Once you have tasted the sweetness of outsourcing, you will be tempted to outsource more to the point that you will look for new areas in your business that could be outsourced. Your core business should not be outsourced. What if Zappos started outsourcing customer support?

3. Greed

greedDon’t pick the cheapest provider. As a business owner wanting to cut cost, you’ll be more tempted to hire the one offering the cheapest rate. When picking a provider don’t forget to take in account the risks of poor quality and the extra time it will cost of micro managing more junior providers.

Unfortunately, most outsourcing marketplaces have bidding systems that force providers to push their prices down. Don’t fall into the trap.

4. Sloth

slothOutsourced work needs to be actively managed. Don’t give away your work and hope it will come back the way you want it done. People can’t read your mind and your own requirements might evolve. Although outsourcing does relieve you from a lot of work, stay involved with it. Monitor the progress, give feedback and set deadlines.

5. Wrath

wrathIt is not rare that clients are disrespectful to the providers. Don’t forget the providers are human beings with flaws but also with feelings. If something wasn’t done the way you wanted, remember that you are partly responsible because you have hired the provider and you should have been managing them.

Stay respectful. It is not because the provider has a thick accent that he is stupid or less important than you are.

6. Envy

envyIt is not because your entrepreneur friend has successfully outsourced the management of his social media presence that it means you should do it too. Depending on how much focus you want to put on your brand, outsourcing your online presence at the early stages might hurt your brand or might not fit the vision you had of your brand. Each business is different and tolerates different areas to be outsourced. Learn the different facets of your business before thinking of outsourcing some of them.

7. Pride

prideDon’t underestimate the effort required for a successful outsourced project. You need to be able to give away control, you need to be able to communicate with and understand people from different cultural background, you need to get used to different timezones and you need to be able to plan ahead to prepare your requirements. Outsourcing simply doesn’t work for certain people and if you are one of them, simply accept it or get better at it!

The 8th sin: Silence

silenceLack of communication is the greatest sin of all. Don’t let more than three days going without contact with your service provider. At taskarmy, the outsourcing platform I have developed, the service providers receive a *friendly* automated notification if they let more than three days pass. I also often require the providers working with me to send me daily emails with the things they worked on yesterday, the things they will do today, and any blockers I can help with.

Hopefully you found this article useful. I am Aymeric and I run theoutsourcing platform taskarmy (and sister website taskangels) that aims at simplifying outsourcing. We offer a free email course if you want to learn more about outsourcing and how to improve your website.